FORT MYERS, Fla. – Throughout the year, teams from Florida have had great representation at many of Perfect Game’s events. They were seen in Atlanta for the WWBA, Nashville for the Super25, and of course Fort Myers, Florida for the BCS. With the amount of teams from the state, Perfect Game decided to establish the Florida State Championships, a tournament to decide who the best team in Florida is.
This year the Florida State Championships has five tournaments set up: ages 13u-17u. All five age groups will take place in Fort Myers. By Wednesday, the best team in Florida will be determined.
The 16u tournament has the most teams of any age group at 50. Talented teams and players from all over the state have made their way to southwest Florida to compete.
The Beyel Brothers Bulldogs, from Rockledge, FL, are fresh off an impressive showing at the 16u WWBA National Championship in Emerson, GA. They won their pool with a 5-0-2 record, which included a win over national power Evoshield Canes 16u. In bracket play, they fell to a very good Elite Squad 16u Prime team 2-0. Making it into bracket play in a 296-team tournament was impressive, and it was a great accomplishment heading into this tournament.
Day one for the Bulldogs was all about pitching. They were to play back-to-back games, and they needed quality performances from their starters to go far in this tournament. What they received was even better than they could have hoped for. Their first game against the North Florida Storm 16u Grey was one where they seemed in control the whole game. Bulldogs starter Chris Reynolds, a 2015-grad, was on point with all of his pitches, and he worked ahead most of the game. He went all seven innings, allowing just one hit. His 14 strikeouts told the story of the game. Reynolds used his 6-foot-1, lanky frame to his advantage. Throwing from the left side, he was low-80s with his fastball all game with a sweeping curveball that North Florida could not seem to crack.
“I just came out expecting to throw strikes,” Reynolds said. “I just worked all of my pitches and located like always.”
Reynolds was in a zone that pitchers do not get into very often. It’s that type of zone where everything goes the right way and nothing can go wrong.
“I felt like I was unhittable; nobody could touch me,” commented Reynolds. “I just threw it in there, and if they hit it they hit it. We had defense.”
The Bulldogs pounded out seven hits, and they were lead by Blake Beyel who went 1-2 with a double, two RBI, and a run scored. Leading only 2-0 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning, the Bulldogs added two insurance runs in the inning, as well as two in the bottom of the sixth to win the game 6-0.
Game two against the Broward Elite was very similar for the Bulldogs in that great pitching led to great hitting for the team. The Bulldog starter was Matthew Portis, a 2015 high-follow out of Sebring, FL. He too put in a great pitching performance that almost matched the one Reynolds put in. Portis went all five innings in the game and allowed just 3 hits, while striking out nine batters and walking only one. Although he put in a great performance, he explained how difficult it was to follow up the performance his teammate put on in game one.
“It was a little tough,” Portis said. “Chris is a great pitcher. You just have to throw strikes. That’s all you have to do really.”
Up 2-0 in the bottom of the third inning, the Bulldogs scored three runs in the frame and three more in the bottom of the fifth to secure an 8-0 victory. Dylan Owens came up big for the team going 2-3 with three RBI and a run scored. Having run support was something that Portis was very grateful for.
“It’s always beneficial,” Portis said of having his offense produce for him. “A pitcher can only do so much defensively, but in the end, to win games you have to have offense and defense. So, it’s great to have a good hitting team.”
When the day was over, the Bulldogs were 2-0 and sitting pretty in their pool. The performances by their two starters meant more to this team because they had just come back from the WWBA tournament and used a bunch of pitching. Head coach Jim Owens could not stress enough how important these two outings were.
“It’s a great start to the tournament,” Owens said. “We needed somebody to fill some time. We are just coming off of a big tournament in Marietta, and that kind of taxed our pitching. Both guys being able to go the distance here really sets our rotation up for the rest of the tournament.”
Sunday afternoon they are set to play their third pool game against FACTR 16u. With only four teams in the pool, every game counts. Having shutout both opponents today, the Bulldogs hope to keep their good play going for the rest of the tournament.
Although it may be hard to match the outings put in by Reynolds and Portis, Owens was firm in his expectations of his starter for Sunday and of his team.
“The next guy in line; our next pitcher has to match these pitchers,” Owens said. “He’s got to try to throw a shutout as well.
“We’re playing really good baseball right now. We’re here to win this tournament, so we just have to keep throwing strikes, keep playing good defense, and keep having solid at-bats. And, we’ll be there at the end.”
It is never too early to start thinking about a championship, and with the confidence of this team it may be something that comes true. If this start and their performance in past Perfect Game tournaments this summer is any indication of the way they will finish this tournament, then the Bulldogs are sure to be there on Wednesday when the best team in Florida is crowned.